Monday, July 5, 2010

book shopping, a family affair

i love people-watching at my local borders. i almost always see something that interests me.

when i did nano last year and spent lots of weeknights in the borders coffee shop, i loved watching the ladies who got together once a week to play mahjong late into the evening.
when dan brown's last book came out, my heart soared seeing people who'd come only for that book venture deeper into the store - like they'd just remembered they love reading - and come out with armloads full of books, not just brown's.
and around christmas time, when i stood behind a woman and her son in the checkout line, complaining about how there were no non-fantasy books for teenage boys, i had to bite my tongue to keep from saying: "i am writing a book for you!"

those interactions - the ones between parents and kids - are the ones i most like to observe. it surprises me how much of a role parents play in choosing what their children read.

yesterday, i watched a mother and her young daughter pick apart the children's section. the mom steered her daughter toward the shelf i was at, saying, "here are the award-winning books. let's pick from this section."
i wanted to hug her.
i already had "when you reach me" in my hands, but i lingered at the shelf to listen as mom and daughter went through book-by-book, talking about which ones they read, how much they liked "wrinkle in time," how they'd never heard of this one, how so-and-so recommended that one... and so on. then dad showed up and gave his input on the pile they'd picked out.

in the next aisle over, an older girl was reading the back cover and inside flap of every single vampire book on the shelf, while her mom moved behind her, picking up only the ones her daughter had added to the "to buy" pile. this pair had graduated past the family discussion over which book to read, but mom was still silently approving the choices.

i'll have to ask my mom, but if i remember right, i was always set loose in the bookstore to grab whatever i wanted. i would hang out by myself in the kids' section until mom came to tell me it was time to check out. then i'd pick up my selections and follow her to the cash register. occasionally she'd say, "all of those?!" and raise her eyebrows, but she never asked what they were about or sensored my choices in any way. and neither did my dad.

i wonder if times have changed or if it just varies from parent to parent.

either way, i love seeing families together at the bookstore. i love watching kids/teens pick up stories on their own or listen to their parents' input. i love spying on what goes into their bags at checkout time. and i love love love overhearing kids talk about which books they liked or didn't and why.
the hope that my name might someday be a part of that discussion is what motivates me through this sometimes frustrating path to publishing. i am so proud to write for young readers.


Gem said...

I want to know your thoughts on 'When you reach me' the minute you finish it! My fave MG book by a clear mile.

And my parents were the same as yours, never checking what I was reading - as long as I was reading something Mum didn't care.

Kelly said...

I'm working on being a year late with my comment, but as I just came across your blog...meh.
I was also completely uncensored at the bookstore. With the exception of, "You need alll of of those this time? You sure?" my mom just wrote the check. Kind of like a robot.
I would have been extremely put out if my mother gave me a hard time about my selections.